What do dogs remember?
While owners often wonder if their dogs remember specific events, scientists are interested in whether or not dogs form memories. The research on this topic is minimal; however, it is generally accepted that dogs can learn and without memory, learning is seemingly impossible.
The commonly accepted scientific theory is that dogs remember what they need to in order to survive. This would explain why a former foster dog who has not been in a particular home for five years might remember where his kibble was served and go there looking for some once returned home.
Fear is also a kind of memory essential to survival. Knowing what proved dangerous or unpleasant in the past helps a dog avoid a similar encounter in the future. If a dog was cold in the rain, he won’t want to take a walk in that type of weather and may wait until the rain passes to go outside. If the family cat scratches a dog, he may learn, or remember, in order to avoid the cat in the future.
Another type of survival memory is recognizing who our friends are, whom we are safe with, and whom we may trust. In a dog’s case, knowing who fed, played, petted, and provided for him counts for a lot in the future. When a dog sees a friend, he tends to remember the associated comfort that’s connected to that person or animal. A dog’s memory extends beyond remembering to missing a person he is connected with. This is referred to as separation anxiety, and may occur when the dog is left home alone without his owner for a long period of time.